American short story author Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of short stories, ‘Her Body and Other Parties’, commences with the thought-provoking tale titled ‘The Husband Stitch’. In the story, the female narrator recounts the conversation between her husband and the doctor following the delivery of her baby.
An excerpt from ‘The Husband Stitch’ –
They take the baby so that they may fix me where they cut. They give me something that makes me sleepy, delivered through a mask pressed gently to my mouth and nose. My husband jokes around with the doctor as he holds my hand.
“- How much to get that extra stitch? he asks. You offer that, right?
– Please, I say to him. But it comes out slurred and twisted and possibly no more than a small moan. Neither man turns his head toward me.
The doctor chuckles. You aren’t the first –
– the rumor is something like –
– like a vir–”
Read the entire story here on Granta – HERE
A Female Genital Mutilation
Carmen Maria Machado describes the unethical and secretive practice of ‘Husband Stitch’ done on a woman during childbirth. Also known by its other names, such as pleasure knot, daddy’s stitch, and vaginal tuck, it is a form of female genital mutilation performed without informed consent, primarily to enhance sexual pleasure for the male spouse during intercourse.
Representative Image Acquired From Heathline.
Discourse on the topic unfolded after the initial release of the short story on Granta in 2014. The release of ‘Her Body and Other Parties’ in 2017 further developed the conversation of this highly reticent topic. Reportedly, there are no medical records of this procedure, which has been ongoing since the 1950s.
During childbirth, women are often prone to a tear wherever the baby comes in contact (cervix, vagina, vulva, labia, or perineum – the region between vaginal opening and anus.) During the 50s, obstetricians performed an episiotomy (an incision through the perineum) to expand the passage for the baby’s delivery. Following childbirth, they repair the incisions with a few stitches and one extra one to tighten the vaginal opening. “People were taught in the ’50s and ’60s that routine episiotomy was good for the woman,” said the chair of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Robert Barbieri.
He further added, “What they thought is that if they did a routine episiotomy, they’d have a chance to repair it and that during the repair, they could actually create a better perineum than if they hadn’t done it. The idea [was]that we could ‘tighten things up.’”
However, wear and tear is a not an unusual occurrence during vaginal birth. Doctors add a few stitches to regain their normalcy because “sometimes the tissue tears and needs to be reapproximated,” according to Dr. Christine Greves, a board-certified ob-gyn.
The Husband Stitch
The extra suture is often added by the doctors at the request of the husbands. It is done at the notion that an additional stitch tightens the vagina for more sexual satisfaction during penetrative sex. This procedure happens unbeknownst to the woman, and they face the reality years later.
Women have shared stories of getting the husband stitch online on forums and blogs. The doctors oblige the husband’s demand, thereby denying women the ownership of their bodies. “The fact that there is even a practice called the husband stitch is a perfect example of the intersection of the objectification of women’s bodies and healthcare. As much as we try to remove the sexualization of women from appropriate obstetric care, of course the patriarchy is going to find its way in there,” a certified midwife told Healthline.
It is a misconception that copulation becomes more enjoyable with the husband stitch. Many women face discomfort while walking or standing, swelling and chronic pain in the vaginal opening, painful sex for both partners, infections and more due to the surgery. “It felt like I was being ripped in half, and the pain didn’t let up until I had my second child and ripped that stitch open,” said Crystal Henry, a victim of husband stitch, while describing her agony.
Despite proper medical records, the reality of the husband stitch is sewn into a woman’s body. This intrusive surgery continues to be performed at an alarming rate, even today.
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Feature Image Via BellyBelly.